This Historically-Significant Town In West Bengal Is The Birthplace of Durga Puja Celebrations

by Shreya Rathod
This Historically-Significant Town In West Bengal Is The Birthplace of Durga Puja Celebrations

Durga puja holds a special spot for Bengalis and is celebrated throughout the state. Today, pandals are erected on every nook and corner. However, that was not the case in olden times as the festival was not a mass celebration. Guptipara in Hoogly is known for being the birthplace of Durga Puja.

Guptipara, The Birthplace Of Durga Puja!

guptipara durga puja
Credits: Canva

Durga Puja was not a widely celebrated holiday in Bengal till the late 1700s. The homes of royals and Zamindar could only host the puja. Some commoners could attend the pujas, but only as guests, upon invitation, and under very tight conditions. Essentially, Durga Puja was a festival of wealth and strength and it was an expensive affair. It lasted over four days and included many rituals that were financially prohibitive for the average person to maintain.

The event that changed the course of history occurred in an unremarkable village in the Hooghly district. The reason Durga Puja was democratised was Guptipara, which is located around 100 kilometres from Kolkata. But first, let’s take a look at Durga Puja’s history before we learn how a fight between young devotees gave rise to this now-popular celebration.

A group of young men from the village of Guptipara were forcefully turned away from the Durga Puja that was taking place in the lavish home of a local zamindar in the late 1700s. They decided to do their own Puja out of rage at this rejection. A group of Brahmins organised an association for the celebration of a pooja outside the bounds of the Shastras some thirty years ago at Guptipara near Santipoora. They selected twelve individuals to serve on the committee, from which it derives its name, and they gathered donations from every nearby community.

Also Read: Durga Puja 2023: 5 Tours & Guides To Take To Explore Durga Puja Pandals In Kolkata

Beginning Of Barowari Puja!

guptipara durga puja
Credits: Wikimedia

Thus, Bengal’s Barowari Puja officially began! The god at this time was Bindhyabasini, a manifestation of the goddess who is also known as Jagadhatri. According to Friends of India, they conducted Jagadhatri worship for seven days in such magnificence that it drew the wealthy from more than a hundred miles away. Of course, the established Hindu ceremonial practices governed the formula of devotion, but beyond this, the entire structure was based on an idea that the Shastras did not approve of.

They hired the best vocalists Bengal had to offer, entertained every Brahmin who visited and spent the entire week in a celebration and delight coma. After the plan was successfully completed, they decided to make the puja an annual event, and it has since been observed with unwavering regularity. It is unknown with certainty when the first Barowari puja took place. The year is given as 1761 in some sources and 1790 in others.

As soon as Guptipara demonstrated that it was possible, the practice spread to the nearby cities and ultimately Kolkata. The community’s Durga Puja in Kolkata evolved from Barowari to Sarbojanin (everyone’s Durga Puja), which cost more money. According to Sudeshna Banerjee’s book, the Sanatan Dharmotsahini Sabha likely hosted the first Sarbojanin Durgapuja in Kolkata in 1910 at Balaram Basu Ghat Road. Local groups in Sikdar Bagan and Ramdhan Mitra Lane soon began hosting Durga Puja celebrations as well.

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The Simla Byatam Samiti and Bagabazar Sarbojanin, two well-known Sarbojanin Durga Puja committees, started to take shape.

Cover Image Courtesy: Canva

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